Cranberry Sauce: Praising, Not Burying Saul MacGarvey

 

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I learned the word hoodwink from my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Bobby Hand. He might take pride in knowing that. I always thought about it in that way politicians pull the wool over people’s eyes when they make false promises. I took pride in thinking I was too smart to be hoodwinked myself until I had a run in with Saul MacGarvey. Saul is actually the innocent party in all this. As you’re about to read, he is the subject of an informative and entertaining interview. I was suspicious when Saul’s people contacted me out of the blue but it’s flattering when anyone takes an interest in the Portland Orbit. Jeff Dodge, my Portland connection to Saul, was evasive when I asked him the name of  Saul’s band. Anybody else would wonder why I didn’t ask Saul himself but between trying to decipher the cryptic nature of this project and actually getting in touch with Saul, I forgot! It wasn’t until I began gathering images and links to include with the interview that I found out this was a Jeff Dodge and the Peasant Revolution Band release. And that, is how, I got hoodwinked. Saul MacGarvey’s identity is a mystery but it doesn’t matter, I had a great time talking to him and despite technical issues that created transcription challenges, I had plenty of laugh out loud moments listening to this recording over and over again. This may not be the last word on my getting hoodwinked but I figure I should let it go for a moment and get to the interview.

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Guest hosting The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour

Portland Orbit:  Okay we’re starting, I mean, sorry, it’s David, it’s David from (laughs) the Portland Orbit. You’ve got to excuse me because we’re had our Christmas party. We’re so busy that we are just now getting around to having our Christmas party. So that’s what we’ve been up to but Saul we know how busy you are.

Saul: It’s a bit late for Christmas, isn’t it?

PO: Yeah, well, I know exactly, we’ve been very busy and you know 12 days of Christmas and all that so that’s where we were—

Saul: I could play that for you if you want.

PO: Oh wonderful Saul. I know you guys had reached out to me it’s been a bit of a mystery but you’ve reached out to me for an interview and so I’m glad that I was able to track you down I have to admit that I didn’t know much about what you were doing and I’m going right into my first question. Okay, are you ready?

Saul: Chorde was a big fan of the Portland Orbit so we thought we’d do that.

PO: Oh great!

Saul: Yeah, go ahead, fire away.

PO: Okay, okay, wait a minute. (Pause for technical difficulties.) Here we go, this is great. From what I’m so familiar with for the music I felt like, it seemed you’re inspired by the Beatles with your Beatle influences on your album and I’m wondering how did you connect with the band?

Saul: What you seem to be saying right there, I disagree with that characterization but continue on.

PO: Well then, maybe the question is, because you cut me off, but my follow-up question which was sort of like, it was a two-part question, two questions in one, which is complicated, but did you connect with the band The Beatles when you first heard them?

Saul: Well, for one thing we’re entirely from different eras, you know, just because we grew up in Liverpool, we were born during the bombing, you know, the war going on. They supposedly had similar things but I don’t really know their history. I was always more of a Stones guy, you know.

PO: A what guy?

Saul: The Rolling Stones.

PO: Not Gerry and the Pacemakers?

Saul: Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. I’m also a bit big fan of The Turtles, very influential and the Thompson Twins were also a big influence on our work.

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Saul with the Thompson Twins!

PO: (Hearty laugh) I can imagine twins, anything with twins. This Tom Lemon collaboration that you’ve got going on, were you trying to do the—

Saul: Ronnie Lemon. It’s not Tom. Tom, that’s his Dad.

PO: What’s that? It’s not Tom Lemon? Okay, wait a minute Ronnie, Ronnie Lemon. Okay, I’m sorry I don’t know where I got that. But I mean are you guys doing the songwriting team thing?

Saul: We’re kind of taking a break from it it’s been a lot of pressure so we’re going to release this album and take a little break, maybe get back to it a little later.

PO: Well, actually how did you decide which name was going to go first though?

Saul: Well, this album is very much about me and my life’s legacy. Some of these songs I wrote by myself when I was first teaching myself how to play the guitar. I didn’t have any lessons, you know, no one showed me how to do anything. That’s why I ended up left-handed with it. I can even play dobro with my toes, you know. Back then it was about doing skiffle, you know.

PO: Okay, what was it about Ronnie though? What was it about Ronnie then?

Saul: Ronnie and I met probably about nine—we were young lads growing up in Liverpool. We met playing the game Connect Four. I believe you call it over there, Connect Four. We met in a Connect Four tournament.

PO: (Laughs)

Saul: We were fast friends after I beat him.

PO: Your album, it feels a lot like the I Am Sam soundtrack. I’m not sure if you’re familiar but that was a movie where Sean Penn plays a mentally challenged Beatles obsessive and so the album is full of performers playing Beatles tunes. Have you heard of this movie?

Saul: I have not, had no idea such a thing—but again I don’t see what all these Beatles comparisons have anything to do with this work. This is from my own personal life, you know it talks about the bombings, it talks about growing up in Liverpool. My friends introduced Chorde Benjamin to Ron Lemon and shortly after the Connect Four tournament we discovered that Chorde could make music out of a pickle, not a piccolo, but an actual pickle. First, we thought we’d change the skiffle group to feature the pickle on the solos.

PO: Oh man!

Saul: We got our feet in the fire there and so this is just an album about our ride and our, you know, going on the Boolivan Show and our exposure in the Americas that we got and all of that, the love, the pain, ending in some great new tracks and old tracks you know. I don’t see why that should have anything to do with stuff about the Beatles, whatever you call them, you know, I was just never into them, I don’t know.

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Saul on TV!

PO: Okay, well I mean, a lot of people are and it’s—

Saul: So Paul’s probably caught wind of us doing this new thing and, all lies, and he’s probably jealous, him and that Yoko, they’re probably, you know, desperate to cling to rellavancy and trying to cash in on our project. Yes?

PO: (Laughs) I couldn’t begin to understand what they’re thinking about but, okay—

Saul: He’s a knight, you know, he’s a knighted one. He might even be replacing one of the Princes I hear. Sounds like they’re doing a little trade.

PO: Pick up some extra work at the palace, yes. I don’t know, I was really curious about your skiffle comments because it seemed to me that skiffle is just, in part, an idea of how kids could just play music without, you know, having to have practically any gear at all if you’re talking about making music from a pickle.

Saul: Yes, it was very difficult through the war, you know. I’m from a different generation and the Falkland Islands War was very difficult to get through. We had noble heroes. We were very poor growing up. We were, well, you know, we were in the lines, we were on the dole. It was very depressing and so we would have to use rocks and sticks to make sounds and that, you know.

PO: Yeah, just like a piece of string, tie a piece of string to—

Saul: Some people think it was invented 30 or 40 years before we discovered it but I guess what we did with it, with the pickle and everything was kind of—it’s what we kept doing. We try to reinvent ourselves. It’s very important to do that, you know. Like when I had to replace, I mean when I spotted Saul. It was very, the psychedelic era, a lot of disinformation got out there, you know? What was your question?

PO: I actually, well I was talking about skiffle but I mean I get it, it just something that struck me just the idea that most people would be intimidated or think you have to have a lot of equipment to form a band or whatever but it sounded like kids were just getting up and trying to make whatever music they could to express themselves.

Saul: Sometimes we’d have to compete with rouges, it helps, it was a blunt object that could be used as a weapon. Very tough, you know. It was really difficult when we started to move into sponges and pillows. We wanted to get a softer sound. It was no good. Moving in our junior year we had to fight off for our spots and rosters with pillows.

PO: But that sounds like the origins of soft rock then that came out of California. That’s amazing! I hadn’t even thought about that.

Saul: Brian Wilson, we were probably very influential on him.

PO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Saul: I feel like, you know, it totally makes sense today. I don’t know if he would’ve admitted to that back then but, you know.

PO: That’s, gosh, I had never even thought about that parallel at all either. I wanted to ask you about the walrus and is it a metaphor?

Saul: Well, you know, I suppose for that Beatles group it was. You know we don’t really have any cute animals on this album necessarily. This is much more about love and peace and understanding and the love Ron and I shared for each other before he got shot, you know.

PO: Okay, yeah, I, yeah, I didn’t want to go there at all but I did, I mean—

Saul: You know, Ronnie getting shot, you could compare that to a walrus getting washed out into the sea. I guess there are some similarities there.

PO: Yeah. Ah, yeah. Yeah.

Saul: Ron got shot in the toe so he got back up, limped onto the shore.

orange hummer x

Saul’s short film deemed a critical and commercial failure.

PO: (Laughs) Well, I was curious about the rest of the band, Chorde and Mack-O, Mackie? And Ron, of course.

Saul: Chorde was my old mate. He was a couple of years younger than us and we met at the Connect Four tournament with Ronnie. He had my back. He was kind of my coach, my cheerleader and then when I beat Ronnie it was like, you know, hey will you join my band? And I said yes, l will. Can Chorde come along? And Ron didn’t—he rejected him out right. That scrawny little thing? I don’t think so. What does he do? And Chorde didn’t do anything at that time. It was another year or so, oh I can play this pickle, you know. That’s sort of how that all came together. Our drummer was a wonderful lad that we used to have. He was kind of stealing all the ladies and that was a bit of a problem so we fired his ass. We got Mack-O. He was cute but he wasn’t as cute as us so we were all able to get the women and the birds.

PO: Because the other drummer before Mack-O wasn’t the best drummer, right? That’s why he needed to go.

Saul: The wonder boy could really, really keep a beat but he was getting all the bird’s attention.

PO: Okay, I just, yeah, I just wanted to make sure I got that.

Saul: Who wants that around, good looking smiling guy. He’d go with three women and they wouldn’t bother with us. They’d all be with him by the end.

PO: Yeah, I was asking about Chorde and Mack-O and about where the names came from.

Saul: Mack-O should be pretty obvious. He came with a mac and he never took it off. The truth, I don’t really know what’s under there. (Laughs) No, he’d shower with that mac on. Mack-O.

PO: He had his mac on!

Saul: Loves his mac, his mother got him in the habit of it when he was really young and he’s much older than all of us but like, you know he’d wear the mac to the shower, anywhere because it rained and he was sickly child so they were very worried about him catching a cold so he always kept the mac on. On the other hand, I, you know, I’m not sure it just seems very convenient that he would be our lead guitar player and his name is Chorde, it just, you know—

PO: Oh, yeah, that’s—so it’s a nickname then? Nickname?

Saul: No. He was born with it. They named him that. He spells it with an e on the end too. It’s unique that way.

PO: Okay, name, it’s kind of a—you got to have a gimmick and all so that’s good.

Saul: His parents were academics who knew nothing about music, you know, it was very outside their world.

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Another handsome drummer axed!

PO: How did you feel about the death of Ron Nasty?

Saul: Ah, from the Rutles.

PO: Yeah the Prefab Four, the Prefab Four and then the Rutles. Yeah.

Saul: I’m a big fan of their work. Nasty was influential in a lot of Ron Lemon’s song writing, for sure, yeah. You’d have to ask Ron about that. He’s hard to get in touch with since he’s isolated himself with that guru, Raku. Yeah. It’s not like her sitting on my guitar was, you know, gonna—it just made me mad. Get out of here. Why are you sitting on my guitar? You’re making it all out of tune.

PO: (Laughs) Not a good piece of furniture.

Saul: Not cool at all.

PO: Did you have anything that you wanted to add? I know, actually, I’m gonna repeat that because I appreciate this so much Saul and I know that the people that I talked to were saying 10-15 minutes. I try to limit, you know, my interviews to three questions which is impossible with a guy like you.

Saul: I fully understand. My management told me this would only be like two minutes but Chorde has spoken so highly of the Portland Orbit that we wanted to give you a fair shot and tell our story. Really this is about my story, you know, it always is at the end of the day and, you know, I guess if I had anything to add to it it’s just that it chronicles our journey as a band and, you know, kind of—when I first replaced—got involved with the band you know they’re sort of two phases of it really and those, the young phase where I was very disengaged and unmusical and then there’s the after the drugs came into it, you know I changed my perspective and some people joked that I changed my face and stuff but you know, a lot of that second phase, really, it brought us into, well, it’s a lot about the world we live in today and the various systems of power and influence according to the majesty of the royal crown is talked about a lot in there, you know. The prestige of the BBC and, you know, what it means to be of kind of a royal bloodline and how important and influential that is on the world, you know, a little bit of blood goes a long way, as they say. It’s got blood all over the place. It’s got blood in the Americas there, you know.

PO: Yeah, you reminded me—

Saul: Fake blood. (Laughs)

PO: Yeah, I’ve kind of gotten away, you know, a lot of the other things that I was hearing about the dribs and drabs that I was getting about this whole project kind of took me away from the music so I’m really appreciating you, because this is a huge album, a huge project and—

Saul: Love and blood lines that’s what it is for me. It’s all about love and bloodlines.

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# # #

Bonus Interview!

P.O. Okay, well, love and bloodlines and what about the future of Scotland? Did you have any thoughts on that? I know you spent a lot of time or you’re going to spend a lot of time in Scotland.

Saul: Me and Cinda, have a little castle, some people call it a cottage up there in the Highlands. It’s very important to get away from Ronnie and Raku and Chorde, you know, Chorde, he has his own projects to do and, yeah, I just want what’s best for all of them. But Cinda and I, no, you know, we’ve dabbled with Scottish politics I suppose, a little bit. The marijuana laws are horribly regressive, you know, we’ve had to get legal help about that at times when we’re traveling back and forth. I have to have lawyers with me. They’re checking our luggage, passports—

PO:  Yeah.

Saul: Certain—

PO: Cavities?

Saul: Thanks to my bloodline it’s sort of a short conversation.

PO:  (Laughs.) All right, well, that is amazing. Thank you so much.

Saul: I’ll have to tell the whole joke about the nickname Billy someday too. There’s a lot of disinformation out there, so I just won’t want you to, especially this Beatles garbage. I hate them. I’m a Stones person.

PO: Okay, well, that surprises me but I get it, maybe it was just too much but, you know, you were still kind of subconsciously reflecting out what you were getting in from them even though you liked the Stones more.

Saul:  I couldn’t name one song if you asked me. I don’t, you know, I mean how little their music meant to me. The Rutles were far better from my perspective.

PO: Yeah, okay, and it sounds like you didn’t catch the Rain tour. I mean, there’s  numerous Beatle impersonator bands.

SauI: I don’t, yeah, you know, there’s some good Stones cover bands that I really enjoy and a wonderful U2 band called boob tube in Ireland. They’re wonderful, wonderful lads, but, yeah, I don’t know this Beatles thing I wish people would kind of drop it.

PO: You can still get confused. I watched much of a rooftop Beatles concert before I realized, now I realize then this is Them Beatles reenacting the rooftop Beatles concert so I was blown away by that. I was totally fooled.

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Saul and Ronnie raise the roof!

Saul: Yeah, well, you know when we were getting on with Ford Harkin and we decided we couldn’t use him anymore to produce it was his idea that we should throw one last set together and Mack-O said, “let’s go on the roof.” We did, but you know, I didn’t know that the Beatles did that actually until you mentioned that. It was a stupid idea because it was pouring down rain. We got all wet.

PO: Who got electrocuted? Anybody get electrocuted? That sounds dangerous. Struck by lightning?

Saul: Well, it was just a lot of water. It was pissing.

PO: You have to check the weather before you schedule a concert outdoors.

Saul: Well, you know, it was the heat of the moment it was quite epic, we were fookin’ done with Harkin here. It was time to do something wild and spontaneous so we did. Actually one of the tracks might have made the album, “World Gone Mad” is actually–

PO: Right from the roof!

Saul: Yeah, people got so excited they decided to put it on a satellite feed across the world so we did that, opened it with the Canadian national anthem to start and it started raining.

PO: Ugh.

Saul: We were live so we played through.

PO: You see Mack-O never—he wouldn’t care because he had the mac.

Saul: Mack-O stayed remarkably dry. His mother raised him well. It was one time the mac really protected him.

 

 

When Portland Almost Killed Beatlemania

I caught the exhibit about The Beatles at the Oregon Historical Society. The displays weren’t specific to the Beatles’ visit to Portland on August 22, 1965 when they performed two shows to a combined attendance of 20,000 fans. There were relics from the concert but the collection, organized by the Grammy Museum and Fab Four Exhibits, included items from the full spectrum of the band’s career. Through November 12, people can pour over artifacts, admire replicas of the band’s gear, look over oddball Beatle merchandise, play drums with Ringo or even sing and record a personal version of Yellow Submarine.

Press kit photo by David Falconer

The band’s performances in Portland must have impacted those who attended, the excitement, the memories. The Beatles, in Portland. Imagine that. Their tours came with baggage. Every show factored into their decision to stop touring. Screams of excitement muffled their ability to hear their instruments. There was more fun backstage jamming, smoking and drinking Wink soda before being trotted out to face 10,000 adoring and screaming Portlanders in a boxy arena. It’s amazing to think facing a crowd like that could get old.

Press kit photo by David Falconer

On tour the band was shuttled by plane and limo in a whirlwind. On the way to Portland the airplane lost an engine. The incident shook up John Lennon but this didn’t merit a mention in Philip Norman definitive Beatle biography Shout, although I swear I read about it somewhere. I also had it in my head that the band landed in Troutdale. I just liked the idea of the Beatles in Troutdale. My memory was proven wrong by a photo of Ringo and Paul waving to fans from a limo at the Portland airport. Their concert rider at the museum called for two seven-passenger limousines, “preferably with air-conditioning” to pick them up. The hoopla netted them 50,000 dollars for their performances and possibly proceeds from the gate on top of that. Tickets, at four, five and six dollars, seemed like a hefty price for the time. How much that equals in today’s money is beyond me.**

Ringo’s suit jacket.

Tiny details from the exhibit revealed more about the band’s personalities. There were things you would never absorb from a book. I saw John Lennon’s loopy handwriting, the use of his elbow to play keyboards in a show photo and a suit that Ringo had made to wear on the cover of the Abbey Road album. George liked it so much he ordered one. In a concert projected on one wall, I watched Paul graciously invite Ringo to sing “With a Little Help From My Friends.” I’m not sure why Ringo is all over the exhibit. He must have been the one Beatle willing and able to participate. His deadpanned intro to the Yellow Submarine booth was hilarious.

The most significant thing I learned about the Beatles’ Portland shows was that Allen Ginsberg was in the audience for the evening performance and he wrote a poem about it. Now a Beatles concert for the band was just another show. For the city and those who attended it’s historical. Not many concerts have poems written about them. Ginsberg has already received props for hanging out with Dylan and recording and performing with The Clash, his poem offers a sense of the essence of a Beatles show.

PORTLAND COLISEUM
by Allen Ginsberg

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children’s
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived

Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other’s sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
—hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing

while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.
— August 27, 1965

Now I’m going to attempt something, rare in this blog or any other, poetry analysis. If you absorb the poem you get images of that cavernous “New World Auditorium” filled with screamers while the Beatles jump as the complete a song. That must have been their stage move at the time. I got a kick out of his band member descriptions. George, so sick of being labeled the quiet Beatle probably kept his mouth shut about it. Paul being painted “black-skulled” is something he’ll never live down. “Screech beyond hearing” seems likely what the Beatles heard but these were Portland kids, sweaters and all, and that could have made all the difference.

**From a story in the Oregonian I learned 6 dollars I s equal to 47 dollars in today’s money.

P.S. The museum is free to residents of Multnomah County and the exhibit is worth checking out if you find yourself downtown. It’s fun to have a look but the mock teenager bedroom decked out in Beatle paraphernalia is a bit of a stretch.

For the Beatlemaniacs:
https://www.beatlesbible.com/1965/08/22/live-memorial-coliseum-portland-oregon/

www.bobbonis.com

Bob’s website doesn’t appear to work well but it’s an archive of photos from the Portland show.

The Author: New kicks, old road.

 

The Louie Files: ’62 Seaside Riot

When I started running blog posts about “Louie Louie,” I discovered some history along the way. In the case of finding the location of the Pypo Club, I’ll admit I was befuddled. The origins of the Kingsmen’s recording could be found at the Seaside, Oregon club. While the Pypo Club was not central to the ’62 riots, when discussing this history with my friend Jeff Dodge he told me his father Stew Dodge had been a witness to the event.  I knew there was more to this era to cover. Stew Dodge has been a longtime Portland musician and behind the music scene too through the sound company he owns. I’ve never been to a riot so I had to hear a first hand account.

July 1962

In the summer of ‘62, I was headed for my senior year of high school at North Catholic which is right down the street. Now it’s an Arby’s on Lombard Street. Our family hung out at the beach. We had friends that had a cabin at Tolovana Park. It was a beater, neat, great, beat up five bedroom beach cabin and we’d rent it before school started for a few years. We hung out at Cannon Beach a lot, went up to Seaside hung out there a lot. In the summer of ‘62 I was down there with, I can’t remember probably staying at the cabin in Tolovana Park. I think it was probably a Saturday night and we went in to Seaside. We had a great beach party going. It was Pete Dressler and Al Kemmer. There was maybe four guys and three of the foxiest chicks that ever went to North Catholic High School and I actually struck up a conversation with Fran Yohn who was absolutely fantastic and I had high hopes until the Seaside lifeguards came walking down the beach. Pete Dressler got beat up. They threw the guitar in the fire, drank all our beer and then split. Nobody got really hurt. It was a power move. It was the lifeguards. There was a guy, his nickname was, Hodun, a big guy and there was another guy I’m not going to mention his name because he was kind of the head lifeguard and the next day I went down to the Turnaround I think with Al Kemmer and these guys were hanging around the lifeguard tower, strutting around and they made some crack “hey you have a good party last night.” And I said, “No, we didn’t have a good party at all.” I said, “But you’re gonna wish you never did that because Labor Day weekend I’m going to bring all my friends down here and we’re going to get even with you.” So file that away.

Stew Dodge, far left from US Cadenza band lineup, 1966

Saturday, Labor Day weekend ‘62

So we found ourselves down at the coast, oh there was half a dozen guys I was down there with. Things started getting really crowded and really crazy. It was just huge, packed, you had to walk in the streets because the sidewalk’s too full. This is one thing the good residents of Seaside probably don’t want to admit but I was 17 and I looked like I was 12 and I could walk into any one of three or four taverns buy a case of beer as long as I took it down on the beach on the sand, as long as I went down to the Turnaround and then went on down to the beach. Well let me think. Is that a good idea? Maybe not. So Saturday was pretty crazy, there wasn’t any aberrant behavior I don’t think, it was just packed and a huge party.

The day of the riot, Sunday, Sept. 2nd

The Times Theater is on Main Street and it’s like a long block away from the Turnaround, I think it’s a four way stop now with the light and we were just walking up and down the sidewalk and hanging out and a fight started. As I recall it was a guy who went to University of Oregon and somebody else said the other guy was a javelin thrower from USC or something and it was like a John Wayne movie. These guys were slugging it out. It was a fair fight but it was a real fight. Everybody backed up so there was like a 20 foot diameter ring right in the middle of the intersection where these guys were fighting. Everybody’s cheering them on and finally they said, “Do you want to quit?” “Yeah I’ll quit.” And they shook hands and walked down the street to get a beer and then the cops showed up. I can’t remember why, one guy got arrested and they cuffed him, threw him in the backseat of the squad car and they were already headed up Broadway towards the Turnaround so they drove up to Turnaround and the crowd followed them. They tried to take a right hand turn at the Turnaround and they couldn’t move it was too many kids. It was really packed and people were yelling, screaming and cheering and stuff and drunk, everybody’s drunk. You know the average age seemed to me to be 21 or 22 older and younger, but college. I was kind of in the minority. I was a junior in high school. Somebody, and I was right there I was watching it, somebody ran up and opened the passenger side, back door on the cop car and they grabbed the guy that was in the cop car and spirited him away. All the sudden they didn’t have their prisoner anymore. So one of the cops slammed the door and they both hopped in and they went up to the corner took a right headed back into town and then when they got down in front of the Catholic Church a block down the street they couldn’t move again.

A bottle like this?

It was too crowded. I was standing there with hundreds of people, the cops were, “Okay, break this up, let us through here,” and from kind of up the street towards the beach came a Blitz Weinhard stubby bottle through the air and punched out the rear window of the cop car. And that was it. Everybody kind of went, “uh oh,” that’s all changed and the cops were able to get into their car and take off and we didn’t see another cop, I’m thinking this was five o’clock in the afternoon, six, somewhere in there, we didn’t see another cop for two or three hours, nobody, no authority at all. They all just gave up which is probably a good idea. By this time they started calling in county, state cops, cops from Astoria, cops from all the agencies up and down the North Coast. So it was just anarchy, you know. It was thousands of kids, nobody in charge, everybody is drunk, everybodies’ having a great time. So we’re all back up at the Turnaround and Al Kemmer says let’s get some guys let’s get three or four guys and let’s start chanting, “Let’s get the tower.” Statue of limitations, okay, I’m not afraid now you know I’ve lived my life. And they did. The thousand people streamed down into the sand and pushed over the lifeguard tower. It was like two and a half stories tall and it was right next to the Turnaround so a long way from the water and we thought well that was interesting.

Then about fifty people picked it up, carried it up the steps and stood it up in the middle of the Turnaround and I’m thinking this is interesting you know this is getting out of control and then they started rolling it end over end down Broadway. It took like fifty guys to do that. It was spectacular and I’m think it pretty much disintegrated from falling over a bunch of times in the cement and then the cops started coming up the street and a fire engine. A fire engine came up about a block away from the actual Turnaround, maybe, and they hooked it up to the fireplug, fired that thing up and got their high pressured hose, I think they only had one, they might’ve had two hoses. They had at least one hose and started hosing down the crowd, which was great fun, you know, and again it didn’t start getting crazy until firemen and cops and other people with some sort of authority in Seaside started using ax handles and they started beating on the kids and then arresting a lot of kids. My good friend, he grew up two houses away from Pat Daily, he went to jail that night. They got him for inciting a riot, hauled him off and put him in jail. We bailed him out the next day.

There’s a picture of a guy, with a newspaper holder, I was right there, I watched that. He tried hitting somebody with that. And then the water stopped the hose quit and a guy, a kid, came running up the street with the keys to the fire engine in his hand, a huge cheer, right. It got tough after that. It got really rough. There was lots of cops. I don’t think the National Guard made it there that day. I think they were there the first thing in the morning. They called up the Guard and that was pretty much it for the anarchy, the thousands of kids from up and down the coast. Three or four of us walked out of town to Gearhart, which is the next town north and we all slept in a barn. I don’t know whose barn it was. It was Labor Day, it got pretty chilly that night but I can remember all of us slept in the hay in the corner of this barn because all of the highways were closed so we couldn’t get anywhere. That’s the chronology from my memory.

With Dr. Corn’s Bluegrass Remedy, 1976

PO: But the cops left and you guys kind of were set off what kind of rioting was going on right as the cops left? Was it fighting?

No, it was a party. It wasn’t even edgy, you know, it was a party. I think the seamier element, I think that’s when stuff started getting broken, and I wasn’t up on Broadway when they were breaking windows and stuff and I think that was, I can’t really remember if that was before the reinforced Police got back up the street. It may have been. With the fire engine, that was great fun getting hosed down with water but they were gone a long time. My feeling was that it was still a giant drunken party

Fritz Richmond’s Barbecue Orchestra, 2003

PO: Combined with maybe some underage drinking.

Some!

PO: But you mentioned the older crowd too, 21 to 22 mixed in with high school kids.

There was wholesale drinking. They were lined up in the bars buying cases of beer and then going down to the beach.

PO: As far as those lifeguards, did you ever catch up with them?

Yeah, the next day. We walked down there, me and half a dozen of my buddies walked down the steps and there were four stakes in the ground and they had it roped off where it used to be. I thought that was a wonderful memorial. It was suggested that it would be a really good idea if we got the hell out of Seaside right then and we did. That was Labor Day, that was Monday. I didn’t press it. I didn’t want to get something going all over again but I was able to look at the stakes in the ground and smile at them.

US Cadenza reunion, 2013

PO: You pretty much got the last laugh because their stand had been destroyed.

And then twenty-five years later or thirty years later, I was hanging out with this girl who lived in Cannon Beach and her landlord was the guy. I think his name is Dick Donica or something, he was the head, he wasn’t the big tough guy but—these guys, they’re all king of the Pypo Club and stuff. They’re real celebrities in Seaside and insufferable jerks. And he was Maggie’s landlord at the house she was living in, in Cannon Beach and this was in ’90, ‘91 maybe, and I knew who he was and I ran into him a couple times and he kept going, “Do I know you?” This was 30 years later and I was like, “No I don’t think so.” He looked at me funny and said that two or three times over that summer.

PO: What are your thoughts as far as Seaside not wanting to talk about it?

It’s funny because in the mid-70’s I worked at a place and one of the guys I worked with, the guy worked out in the warehouse, Sonny was the guy’s name, he was from Seaside and he was there during the riot. It came up once and they’re all pissed off that it gave Seaside a bad name, yeah, sleepy little beach town.

A sound idea, indeed.

PO: I mean part of my thought is it was right before I was born but I think about back then you think, early 60s everybody’s respectful, for this or that you can think about the Marlon Brando types the Wild Ones or something it’s not a biker gang thing but,

No, and that wasn’t, if you look at the pictures, I’ve been looking at the pictures and actually I’ve been seeing guys and I’m going okay I remember that guy. I don’t know who was at fault to do things over again that kid shouldn’t have thrown that beer bottle. Maybe they shouldn’t have arrested that kid. They’re trying to do a big power play in front of a thousand drunk college students, maybe that wasn’t smart. Nobody down there, none of the cops, sleepy little Seaside town, the worst they’d ever done was roust a drunk or a bounced check. This was totally new ground for them so it was a comedy of errors I think and there wasn’t, except for the tower, there wasn’t any sort of pre-planned thing so it was not a conspiracy it was something that got out of hand.

Performance photos courtesy of Trench Digger Productions. Many thanks to Jeff S. Dodge and Mr. Stew Dodge, too!

More reading:

http://www.oregonlive.com/history/2016/06/seasides_wave_of_riots_in_the.html

My favorite part of the link below is how the photo is debunked by the commentators:

http://www.stumptownblogger.com/2011/05/the-seaside-riots.html

Next week: Portland has a bell?

The Louie Files: Louie Louie Sculpture

I never would have known there was a “Louie Louie” sculpture in town if I had not been tipped off by Will Simmons. Will enjoys his fame as a blogger for the Pittsburgh Orbit and I was lucky to have him as a guest columnist. Earlier this month, he wrote about the greatest moment in rock history and had been looking for photos for the post. If you haven’t read it already it was about the 60’s Portland band the Kingsmen recording “Louie Louie.” I ran the post on April 6 in honor of the 54th anniversary of the making of that record.

A closer look.

You have to make some considerations when you’re attempting to illustrate a song. It’s challenging. Artist Tim Bavington illustrated the song’s sound waves in a sculptural form  that hangs in the lobby of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal uilding at 1220 SW 3rd Avenue in Portland. You pretty much have to have synesthesia to make an image of music and yet Tim Bavington’s sculpture takes the notes and chords from the song “Louie Louie” and does that. My research revealed that the sculpture replicates the Kingsmen’s version of the song but unless you’re a sound engineer with a keen eye, as opposed to your average federal worker, how would you know?

The Louie Files: Louie, Louie Sculpture 3

I made my way downtown on a Tuesday afternoon during my spring break. With a sneaking suspicion that a federal building meant security, I emptied my pockets of various odds and ends before leaving the house. I was getting worked up knowing I was going to have to explain my mission. When I arrived I told the guard about my blog related photography assignment. I wondered if I sounded professional, or crazy. He remained unfazed, as if this were an everyday occurrence. I was instructed to only take pictures of the sculpture and not the security apparatus I was passing through. Taking off my shoes only proved to be a minor annoyance. It was getting me closer to the sculpture. I discovered the plate in my arm from this summer’s bike accident didn’t set off the metal detector.

The guitar solo is the yellow part.

After collecting my belongings, one of the other guards told me, what sounded like a rumor, that the art was hung upside down. I was flabbergasted. Art hung upside down? I asked why no one ever returned to hang it right. She explained that she had worked in building construction and thought the art work cost more to hang than to make. Rearranging it would be cost prohibitive. She seemed like a good source of information so I asked how the art work ended up in a Portland federal building. Her explanation was cryptic. She told me she had lived in Portland for a long time and wacky things happen here. Days later I had to wonder if I had not fallen victim to the greatest joke about abstract art of all–the old nobody knows which side is up joke.

The Louie Files: Louie, Louie Sculpture

Feds in there somewhere.

The Federal Building itself is a work of art. Ironwork up the entire building had me wondering how this obscures people’s views from the windows but it sure looks cool. Inside the lobby, the “Louie Louie” sculpture is given a great amount of space, the whole lobby, minus the security apparatus, to be noticed and admired. The large windows on the ground floor allow light to be reflected back on the surface of the art work. I found this distracting because it doesn’t allow the color of the sculpture to be seen as well but it adds a dimension to the piece. It’s always going to look different. That sentiment was summed up in the title plaque that describes how artist Tim Bavington:

“assigned colors to spectrographic images of the music, and the resulting color combinations correspond to the song’s changing chords. Viewed from different angles and in shifting light throughout the day, the forms appear fluid and ever-changing.”

Seating for seven.

Another detail I appreciated was how the art reflected off the shiny floor, mirrored in swirls of color. I laughed to think about how there was seating arranged far from the art work with enough space between to take the whole thing in or not look at the sculpture at all. I had to wonder if people considered the artist’s methods, design and subject matter and if the art ever started discussions about the song itself.

Detail

The song has taken on a bit of a new life for me as I started this series of blog posts related to it. I never quite caught on to the “Louie Louie” resurgence in the ’80’s but after reading about the “Louie Louie” marathons at California college radio stations it now makes sense. I finally got around to visiting the building where the song was recorded. Next year I hope to write about the plaque being returned to one of its walls. I heard it had been stolen but was told when I visited the site that it was taken off for renovation work.

IMG_4979

The Louie, Louie Building sponsored by FedEx.

Mostly I like the idea of a bunch of guys bombing into a recording studio and being bum rushed into churning out a quick take of a song that became legendary. One Facebook responder didn’t think the guitar solo was raunchy enough and while that’s something to consider, the song was recorded in a way that created a delicate balance, anything done even in the slightest different way, another take or an overdub (if that technology even existed then), might have thrown off the whole recording. As Simmons described in his greatest rock moment post, the Kingsmen created a recording full of “magical quirks,” a phrase that relates to the possibilities that can still be found in Portland. Somehow it all seems subversive in a subtle way that a sculpture would be installed in a federal building  50 years after an Indiana Governor alerted the F.B.I. and started a rock and roll witch hunt of sorts over the song’s perceived explicit nature. I’ll take quirks anywhere I can find them even if it means taking my shoes off.

Next week’s topic will be Sign Additions. You’ll have to tune in to see what this is about. The following week we’ll be running the last of this year’s Louie Files series. We’re thinking it will be a first hand account of the Seaside riots.   

For sculpture information see:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/07/the_kingsmens_infamously_innoc.html

Many thanks to Louielouie.net for their “greatest moment” write up:

http://www.louielouie.net/blog/?p=8424

The Louie Files: Finding Pypo

There’s plenty to do at the Oregon coast, even during a rainy weekend. There’s bad cable television, waves to look at and listen to and rain showers to dodge when the time seems right for a walk on the beach. But I was on assignment. No, I hadn’t gone to Seaside, Oregon for the sole purpose of hunting down the remains of an old teen club but since I was in the area, the exact area, I knew I could make it part of my agenda. I was really in Seaside because my wife, Ronna, was attending a conference at the Convention Center. My real assignment was to monitor the dog and keep him from barking and waking everyone up at the hotel.

When Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit was preparing a post for this blog to celebrate the anniversary of the Kingsmen’s recording of “Louie Louie,” I read the story about the origins of the song and kept hearing about the Pypo Club in Seaside. I was in the right place to snap a few photos of the place that played a part in the song’s history. By now, hopefully, you’ve read Simmons’ “Louie Louie,” post. The Pypo Club was integral to the Kingsmen’s association with the song. It was at the club where the band kept seeing kids get up and dance to Rockin’ Robin Roberts’ version of “Louie Louie” every time it came on the jukebox. This inspired the band to perform it themselves. Obsessives like me find this moment of inspiration historical. It led to the Kingsmen recording “Louie Louie.” Historical events mean building preservation and plaques. I knew the club was on Broadway so after walking to the Convention Center the night we arrived I found the street which is the town’s main drag and headed towards the ocean. I expected to see the Pypo Club looking familiar like the old photo I’d seen but the darkness kept it hidden. That was okay since I had the next day to find it.

The Club keeps you young.

The following morning I did more research. I read the obituary of the man, Gil Tolan, who co-founded the club in 1961. The Pypo Club got a brief, one sentence mention. The gentleman had a full life so the obituary explored his many other accomplishments. Then I discovered that the first Pypo Club was torn down. This club had figured so prominently in rock history and yet I could find few specifics about it. Some Facebook mentions seemed concerned with casual reminiscences. Somewhere a comment explained the building’s demise.

A commenter tells the tale.

With all the development that had gone on in the last 50 years it made sense that a teen club would be inconsequencial. Right there at the point where the Pypo Club would have faced the ocean was a concrete bunker complete with a roundabout for auto traffic with a statue of Lewis and Clark in the middle. Underneath this were the public bathrooms. Additional research revealed the club had moved to a second location in a building that became an electrical business. That too was torn down to make room for a parking lot. I never determined when that happened. I was sitting in a hotel room like I’d been bowled over by a rouge wave. I had nothing to photograph. There was no way to capture the Pypo Club aspects of the “Louie Louie” story.

Possible Pypo Club site now bathrooms.

I thought I needed to go to the electrical business named Borland’s. They had moved into the second Pypo Club on A Street. That business then moved to G St. I’m not sure if I had a specific address other than the street name but I was thinking that the town was small enough that if I drove up and down G Street I’d see it. I imagined a back office with photos of old buildings and stories about rock and roll legends but I never saw the business. Surely the internet would have told me if the business was still around and if they had weekend hours, but I missed the part where the business was actually located in Gearhart. I regrouped because I knew I had spared someone, and myself, some awkward and over-caffeinated blubbering about being a blogger hot on the trail of a rock club who’s name I couldn’t even pronounce.

History is made here.

I remembered seeing a sign for a historical museum in the area and I headed back to find it. Walking in and seeing the sign for the 3 dollar entrance fee had me telling the man at the desk in the entrance way, “I don’t have any money but I’m trying to find information about the Pypo Club.” I still wasn’t sure how to pronounce it so I said it both ways, “Pee-po” and “Pie-po” to be safe. I explained that it was an old rock club where the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders played. He said he hadn’t heard of it. I think I babbled a bit about what I knew about the buildings being torn down. I mentioned the ’62 riots which were associated with the Pypo Club. He seemed to know about that. Then he disappeared into the back and brought out an old phone book. I would have preferred he bring out an old timer they had stashed in the backroom with exstensive knowledge of the town’s early rock years. After going back a couple of times, he found a phone listing in the 1963 book. He had spent a few minutes looking the club up under the letter U. The photo I showed him had “Under 21 Club” on the awning.

The Louie Files: Finding Pypo 5

There’s that number, again!

I’ll admit it was a bit confusing but I realized Seaside had more history going on than what happened at the Pypo Club and there was a whole museum devoted to it. The volunteer was younger than me but I was still mystyfied. I mean the Kingsmen, “Louie Louie,” the germ of an idea had happened in Seaside. Why wasn’t it a bigger deal? Why didn’t everyone know? I took a photo of the listing in the old phone book, evidence that the place existed. I left wracking my brain about what else I could photograph, but forgot to take a picture of the museum. I made my way back to A Street and took pictures of the empty lots across from the Dairy Queen the man at the museum told me about.

Not in the area of the second Pypo Club.

The next morning I realized I could go back to the old address of the original club, 1 N. Broadway. Here’s where I remain confused. Either I saw the club listed at this address or wanted to think that the address still existed even though the club is long gone. Right there in the phone book it’s listed as 1 Broadway. The thing I got excited about was that with it’s black stripes the awning looked similar to the one in the old Pypo Club. Due to some early morning chaos, my first picture was crooked. When I went to take the picture the dog growled at a man who approached the store then turned away, while out front a woman was having her car towed which wasn’t going to make a nice wide shot. As I was packing up to check out of the hotel, I made plans for more photos. I needed the histroy museum and business at what I thought was the old address or at least a better awning shot. I was in need for a witness to this history but was in no mood to hang out at the local eatery, the Pig’n Pancake restaurant and badger random senior citizens with questions.

That old, familiar awning.

There I was scrambling around, carrying bags in the pouring rain, loading the dog in the car, going back to the room for the last load and dealing with a key card that stopped working. The museum was easy. It was all about waiting for the flag to unfurl just right, but even that ended up getting cropped from the photo. Getting back up Broadway at noon proved tougher than I realized. It’s a small area but traffic congestion combined with the longest red light I’d ever experienced was making me late. I still needed to pick my wife up from her conference. I drove past the market somehow related to the Pypo Club snapping photos and realizing that driving while photographing was probably just as dangerous as driving while texting as I then began to navigate the turn around. I took a deep breath slogged for another block back through traffic and realized that I, at least, had a few more options of photos to tell the story of the Pypo Club a place that’s gone but who’s spirit emanates from the sun, rain, wind blown sand and ocean spray of the resort town of Seaside, OR.

Next time: A visit to the “Louie, Louie” sculpture located in a Portland federal building.

The Louie Files: The Greatest Moment in Rock-and-Roll

exterior of two-story brick building painted black, downtown Portland, OR

Hallowed ground. The former Northwestern Recorders, Burnside and 13th Ave, where “Louie Louie” was recorded.

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist this week is Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit. His love of the the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” has inspired a slew of forthcoming posts to celebrate the 54th anniversary of  the recording. He’s won me over as I realize Will isn’t spewing hyperbole.

 

It is the greatest moment in rock-and-roll. I can say that definitively–I know them all.

Oh, sure–there’s Jackie Brenston and pre-spousal abuse Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, the so-called “first rock-and-roll song”. Elvis, whose famous croon and gyrating mid-section is right up there with the crazed abandon of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Chuck Berry is a one-man honors course on the past, present, and future of the genre.

The Beatles launched a million shrill screams and sent inspired amateurs from all over into guitar shops. Their across-the-pond mates The Kinks, The Who, and the Rolling Stones all launched impressive salvos at this hallowed target.

Somebody’s going to argue for Robert Johnson selling his soul down on Highway 61, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s rock-and-roll gospel, Dylan “going electric”, Janis Joplin’s impassioned ball-and-chain wails, Hendrix on his knees and out of his mind at Monterrey. “Rock and Roll, parts 1 & 2”, Mike Leander’s Frankenstein studio creation for Gary Glitter, was famously called “a castration op where you throw away the patient and keep the balls”. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” set some kind of high-water mark, but it’s not this one.

We could go on and on–heck, we haven’t even gotten to punk rock!–but what’s the point? No, “Louie Louie”–The Kingsmen’s definitive “Louie Louie”–recorded on this day in 1963, alone holds that title. And it happened right here….er, right there…in Portland.

Tim Bavington's sculpture "Louie, Louie" (detail), Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building downtown

Tim Bavington’s glass and acrylic sculpture “Louie, Louie” (detail), Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building downtown

Kids today. One thing they’ll never know is the absolute moment of greatest excitement in life. I’m talking about the brief seconds immediately following the record player’s discordant crunch–like a car crash heard from blocks away–as the needle makes contact with spinning black plastic. From that instant until the music kicks in–possibly nanoseconds, a blink of an eye, really–there is nothing except the amplified scratching of dust on empty grooves and a heightened anticipation that something incredible is about to happen.

When the needle drops on “Louie Louie” it has every molecule of this electricity behind it. The organ pick-up on the V chord and one run-through of the progression is just enough warning for rockers to rise from their seats and the timid to dive for cover.

Lynn Easton is a sonic terrorist wanted for crimes ranging from flagrant tempo irregularity to rampant contraption kit abuse. But then as now, there are no normal circumstances and Easton’s all-fills-all-the-time, no-crash-cymbal-left-alive approach to drumming is exactly what you want destroying rhythm in the scorched earth ground war that is rock-and-roll.

What takes “Louie” over the top, though, are the loose, drunk-sounding, shout-sung vocals of young Jack Ely. It’s just one of the song’s many magical quirks that the record was done in a single take, recorded live in the studio using just three room microphones, by a band that only just added the song to their repertoire. When Ely sings through his teenage orthodontal work, craning to be heard over the live band din, he’s working from only a passing familiarity with both the new lyrics and arrangement.

It all adds up to one of the great vocal performances in rock history. No one would possibly practice singing a song the way Ely delivers it. Likely–had the band been granted more studio time, budget, a producer–they might have rethought the spontaneity of this first, perfect take. Fortunately for all of us, they never got that chance.

"The Kingsmen on Campus" album cover with five band members in cardigan sweaters at the top of a brick staircase

If the cardigan’s a-rockin’… big Kingsmen on campus (1965)

By all accounts, Ely, Easton, and the gang were pretty square. From the band’s Wikipedia entry, “The Kingsmen began their collective career playing at fashion shows, Red Cross events, and supermarket promotions, generally avoiding rock songs on their setlist.” The group only fell into trash rock ass backwards after hearing the popularity of an already-recorded version of “Louie Louie” while playing at the very un-rock-and-roll venue of a yacht club on the coast.

There are plenty of wilder early rock records that pre-date “Louie’s” moment of glorious infamy, but none that got anywhere near the exposure The Kingsmen received. Coming at the tail end of the brief window between Elvis leaving the building and The Beatles “yeah-yeah-yeah”-ing arrival, “Louie” is the great exclamation point that ushers both popular and underground rock music into the 1960s. When the record peaked at #2, in December, 1963, the Billboard’s Top 40 chart contained such ’50s hangovers as Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton, and Al Martino, “Be True to Your School” and “Wives and Lovers”*. The top spot was held by The Singing Nun’s folky “Dominique”, sung en Française.

Seaside, Oregon phone book entry for the PYPO CLUB at 1 Broadway

An old-school phone listing is all that’s left of Seaside, Oregon’s Pypo Club, where The Kingsmen first heard “Louie Louie”.

The Kingsmen went on to record a series of albums in the mid-1960s full of decent, but forgettable R&B standards, dance-craze-of-the-week retreads, and unfortunate novelty tunes. It didn’t help matters that shortly after “Louie’s” success, Easton staged a bloodless coup to unseat Ely as lead singer and frontman. In one fell swoop, the band lost both of their greatest assets–the untrained voice and the unhinged beat.

promotional photograph of Jack Ely and the Kingsmen with band members smiling in jackets and ties

Jack Ely’s post-sacking, hack lineup of The Kingsmen, c. 1964 [photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society]

None of these things mattered to me. As a high school student in the 1980s, I bought used-bin copies of all their records and played them incessantly. My peers were listening to Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Cure while I was spinning The Kingsmen’s B-grade takes on Allen Toussaint and Rufus Thomas songs.

Looking back, I recognize how mediocre the Kingsmen’s second- or third-hand, safe-for-middle-America versions are in comparison to the real thing. But those albums served as a great gateway to finding out about much more interesting music–both in the New Orleans/Memphis R&B records they copied and the mid-’60s garage rock they became synonymous with.

The Kingsmen will never be remembered for the catalog produced by ‘60s rock peers The Pretty Things or The Troggs, The Chocolate Watch Band or The Sonics, The Standells or The Easy Beats. But they did one magical, perfect thing–right there at Burnside and 13th. It changed this blogger’s young life and he is forever in their debt. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi.

Hyperbolically yours,
Will Simmons
Pittsburgh

man holding a copy of "The Best of 'Louie, Louie'" vinyl album

The author, one needle-drop from ecstasy


Further reading: Dave Marsh’s 1993 book Louie Louie: The History and Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock’n’Roll Song (Hyperion) is a totally great read for anyone with even a passing interest in the song, Northwest rock history, or just a goofy, wild true tale. It’s amazing to me that Multnomah County Library only has one (print) copy in the system considering how much of the book could be considered “local history”, but hey–it’s available! (as of this writing)


* In fairness, the Dec. 14 Billboard Top 40 also contains some pretty good stuff–“Walking the Dog”, early Motown records, “Sugar Shack”, etc.

Next week in the second installment of the Louie Files, we’ll explore an attempt to find the rock club in Seaside, OR that inspired the Kingsmen to record Louie, Louie.

 

The PRB Variety Hour Interview

I daydreamed about having a TV talk show in my basement, but I couldn’t escape the obvious creep factor in trying to lure guests to my basement for a “TV show.” Also, I could never get organized enough to make it happen. I have been able to experience hosting an in-home talk show vicariously through Jeff Dodge. He cobbled together his cameras and a rudimentary switcher to broadcast his own show live on his birthday. Ever since he’s been airing the show once a month.

Jeff is a man of many talents. He is a sound engineer, musician, movie director, video producer and now TV talk show host. Although he has yet to break out the solid move of playing the piano while interviewing a guest, pioneered by original Tonight Show host Steve Allen, the thing to know is he could. Jeff combines show host duties with those of band leader (double scale anyone?) for the show’s house band, The Peasant Revolution Band. Dodge plays guitar with them for a few numbers each show.

Push button directing!

Push button directing!

As someone who helps produce the show and directs the live broadcast, I get a front row seat to the action. My involvement with the show might explain how I got access to Jeff for an interview.

The Peasant Revolution Band perform on Septeber's grunge themed show.

The Peasant Revolution Band perform on September’s grunge themed show.

The Portland Orbit: My first question which is, I’m just asking, what is the PRB variety hour?

Jeff Dodge: The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour is…well first off it was a concept mostly because we were looking around for venues to get a regular gig booked at, after twenty, twenty-five years of being in this town and off and on playing music and finding that it’s still kind of the same old thing, what have you done for me lately, I decided why don’t we do a TV show as a regular gig. That’s one way to have it. We’ll just throw it in my office and shoot it and go live once a month and so far it’s been working great. A once a month gig, it’s the only time I’ve really had that on a consistent basis and it’s actually a lot more work than I was thinking it was. So I’m kind of glad we don’t have any other shows. (Laughs)

The Portland Orbit: What are some of your inspirations for the show?

Jeff Dodge: It’s shaped by a lot of what Zach Galafancous “Between Two Ferns” does. Recent inspiration has been Eric Andre. Our friend Jason Lamb turned me on to the Eric Andre Show, and I think he’s doing some amazing stuff. I think another part of the concept was kind of like the Sonny and Cher Variety Hour I got kind of more turned on to and Steve Allen. I sent a clip to you recently where he does this interview with Jack Kerouac where they’re kind of chatting, and (Steve Allen) is plinking along on the piano and all of a sudden (Kerouac) starts reading and they bust into this whole jazz thing. It’s just great. The band kicks in. I think Steve Allen used to do that a lot just sort of, (goes into Steve Allen impersonation) “okay, we’re having a casual conversation and okay you bore me I’m just going to start plinking along here.” You know it turns into a song. That’s a good idea that I’m trying to bring in with this show.

The Portland Orbit: Oh yeah, that’s, yeah, I mentioned that already in the blog post. (Laughs) That has to happen. So that kind of feeds into my next question. It’s really like what are the inspirations that you get from past talk show hosts and other performers?

Jeff Dodge: Well, I guess I have to say one of the big breakthroughs for me—the past couple of years really, I got into the Andy Kaufman story quite a bit when I realized he was a lot bigger than what Jim Carrey portrayed him as in that movie. I really didn’t like that movie. I had a bad taste for him. I started seeing what he did and what he did on talk shows and really actually at the height of his reign had wonderful relationships with people like Mike Douglas and even Dinah Shore and of course David Letterman and him were great friends. So I think that’s a lot of inspiration that’s been coming as I watch this guy sort of peek around the edges of these establishment shows that are historic, really, and sort of see the nuances for parody. Gary Shandling was another master of the kind of parody I really enjoy.

Monitoring the program monitor.

Monitoring the program monitor.

The Portland Orbit: And what do you like about being able to produce a talk show from your house?

Jeff Dodge: It also doubles as my work office. I’m in there doing video editing and doing all sorts of things of that nature anyway. It’s kind of great that it’s in my home office. I just have to switch gears and everything is not that far away. It gets me to try to semi-clean things up once a month so that’s good and yeah, it’s a short walk to the studio. It seems a pretty central place for the band and guests to meet. It’s just enough space. It’s a little cozy. Cozier makes it, you have to have a bit more focused because of that.

In football it would be a screen play.

In football it would be a screen play.

The Portland Orbit: I think the other aspect of that question that’s missing really is what do you like about the technical aspects that allow you to broadcast from your home?

Jeff Dodge: My inspirations for this are podcasting in general like what you’ve been doing. I was seeing all sorts of things happening in this election cycle where the Internet is full of basically pirated TV stations, people just kind of breaking loose and doing their own videocast whether it’s through Facebook or YouTube and multiple generations and multiple countries and groups and yeah, it’s just wonderful. It’s like TV is getting put in the hands of the people. There’s just a huge variety of it. I think the fact that all this software is coming through these media platforms is creating a lot of opportunity that wasn’t there even a couple of years ago. So I’m taking advantage of that and then the hardware aspect of it is I’m using standard def cameras, any camera, running everything through an analog processing thing it’s not much different from what the TV stations use, it’s all 720p for them anyway even though they get all this fancy HD stuff to work with. We’re still all watching low resolution so I’m taking it all and sending in down the pipeline, doing it all on the cheap and easy. It’s free and all the software platforms are allowing for that so it’s great. It’s a wonderful time to bring those two together.

The Portland Orbit: Very good, okay, I love that. That’s a good ending there. (Laughter.)

Jeff Dodge: I could go for hours.

*  * * * *

Jeff generally broadcasts on the last Tuesday of the month. He jokingly referred to the next show’s air date as October 32nd but he’s actually hitting the “internetwaves” on Tuesday, November 1st at 9pm PST. For more information see: http://trenchdigger.us/prb-variety-hour-show.html

UPDATE: The show now airs on the last Monday of every month.

P.S. Not to go unmentioned are the contributions of drummer Rich Reece and bassist Steve Cebula who make up the rhythm section of The Peasant Revolution Band. During the show they offer commentary and make quips. Reece plays more of an Ed McMahon role while Steve is more in the Tommie Newsome territory. To understand that reference you would probably need to have had parents who nodded off to the Johnny Carson show on many a night in the 70’s.

P.P.S. Right after I turned off the recorder, Jeff threw out a nod to SCTV (Second City TV) as an influence. The Canadian show starred the likes of John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin among others. It also ran fake commercials, which I didn’t remember. Here’s one I created for the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pub-zD0hR5U

The Music That Makes Us

I’ve lived in the Kenton neighborhood for seven years but my experience with the music in my immediate surroundings has been random and sporadic. Disjecta, the arts organization, is exploring the music made in the Kenton with an exhibit called “The Music That Makes Us.”  Disjecta explains that the exhibit “investigates a neighborhood through its music, and emphasizes the value of diverse musical expression within a community.”

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Setting up at Disjecta for the Kenton Street Fair Fundraiser.

All neighborhoods have their musicians, unsung heroes who go unnoticed but this exhibit gives me a chance to explore mine. It may seem like an odd thing. I can’t recall a time when I’ve read anything about any neighborhood in the city making better music or being more creative than any other neighborhood. While we may have our arts districts, I realize the exhibit is not about competition, but a chance to explore the specifics, music wise, of a community. I’m lucky it’s happening here. I have a good opportunity, with little effort, to be introduced to the creative people who are around that I didn’t even know are around me.

Make overs and music

Make over and music.

Since the exhibit opened I’ve learned some things. One of the barbers who works at Bart’s Barber Shop not only cuts hair, he’s a musician too, as is one of the guys who works at Cason’s Butcher Shop. It has me seeing these men in a different dimension and making the people in my neighborhood less mysterious. The other revelation is that I’ve found out that Norman Sylvester lives in my neighborhood. He’s a living legend and a local celebrity to me. I’ve seen him on TV on AM Northwest and been to a concert at Kenton Park. I clipped a photo I came across of him with B.B. King. I even met him at Jeff Dodge’s place when he was dropping off some video footage. Recently he was on the cover of the Portland Observer and there he was was at the exhibit opening wearing a sharp suit. I was a bit too shy to mob him.

Music that makes us wide

My own investigations of my neighborhood’s music have amounted to seeing bands at the yearly street fair and occasionally at the Kenton Club. I caught some great music spilling out of the church in downtown Kenton one Sunday morning and I’ve also heard bands practicing in neighborhood basements. For a time my next door neighbor had a band that practiced at her place. Hearing their sound reminded me of playing music in a garage. Once I noticed our chickens bobbing their heads to the submerged rhythms.

music that makes us cu

When I went to the exhibit opening, I saw a serpentine  pattern of music related objects laid out in the room on tables that included sheet music, instruments, photos, a music stand covered in stickers and Norman Sylvester’s press clippings that his wife has gathered over the years. A drum kit was on display and someone was banging away on a piano. The objects  gave me a sense of the ephemera that goes into music making but it’s great to see that the exhibit is multi-dimensional offering up a couple of chances to hear the music created in Kenton.
Meat and music

Meat and music.

Two events will be held in association with the exhibit. The first will be a walking tour which starts at Disjecta at noon on Saturday, April 16th. The walk lasts 90 minutes. The tour guides are members of the Portland State University Art and Social Practice program and will present audio recordings of field recordings and interviews. If you can’t make the walk you can still listen to the tour.

The other event is an afternoon concert celebrating the exhibit. Who’s going to show up? Which neighbors are going to reveal themselves to be musicians? How many more proverbial dots are going to be connected? The only way to find out is to attend the show at Disjecta on Saturday April 23  from 4–8pm for The Music That Makes Us Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

When the Torch Marauder Played Portland

What’s not to like about a performer who paints himself blue, dons a black cape and puts on a show with his back up band as a video image from a TV screen. All the Torch Marauder had to do was plop in a VHS tape and he could do his thing.  Sounds like he’s kicking it old school in the technology department but the Torch Marauder was in his prime many years ago. (I’m not ready to believe that he’s retired from show business.) I made a short documentary about him which meant following him around with a camera, taping tons of his performance especially at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, Virginia where my attempts at lighting would annoy the guys trying to play chess in the bar.

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In 2010, I dusted off my video and gave it a sorely needed re-edit. I mean who puts a three-minute video in the middle of a short documentary anyway?  Around that time I had a chance to screen it at one of the NW Film Center’s open screenings at the Whitsell auditorium—a great opportunity to see my stuff on the big screen. At that time, I emailed the Torch Marauder and got his impression of performing in Portland as part of his US tour in the summer of 2000. I was ready to share this with the folks who came to the screening but the usual host, Thomas Phillipson, was not there that day and the intern who was present did not follow the usual introduction procedure. I missed my chance to read the Torch Marauder’s email. So, here it is followed by a brief Q&A about the show, the club and his Portland memories.

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My show at the Tabor in Portland was a funny story. I can’t remember all the details, but I was listed to play on a Sat and they changed it to a Friday, after I was already on the road. Luckily, my friends there saw the listing and told me to get there on time. Then the band that set it up didn’t show, so it was just me, who no one had ever heard of. There was a big room with 3 local bands, and then a small theatre where I played. I only got paid according to who said they showed up to see me. Even though a bunch of folks came over from the big room to watch me play. Then the girl who handled the money that night told me that’s how they do it, and that she had to pay a babysitter for the night just so she could be there to work the door. I told her I drove from North Carolina, but she didn’t believe me, told me to take it up with the owner, and maybe I’d do better next time. She then said I could come back and play two weeks later. I again told her I lived in North Carolina, and she was like “are you serious?” There’s more details that I’m forgetting, but it was a pretty strange experience.

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How were you able to get the gig?

I set up the gig through another band, who must have been friends of friends, because I didn’t know them. I honestly can’t remember how I came to be in touch with them. They were called The Visit.

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(There’s the Mount Tabor Pub, and then the Tabor Acoustic Room, which is where I played.) I think I remember them being compared to early Pink Floyd or something like that, but they didn’t show up for the gig, so I never heard them. No other bands filled in, so I just played solo.

Any impressions of Portland from that time?

It was my second time in Portland. I had been there two years earlier in the Summer of ’98. I had friends who were living there then, and I remember having a great time. We saw The Big Lebowski at the Bagdad – that place is amazing! I remember going to a few different McMenamin’s Pubs, and digging them all. We had dinner at the Montage one night. They had communal seating, and they wrapped up our leftovers in tinfoil origami – it blew my mind at the time! We drove out to the coast one day, and that was beautiful. I also dug going up to the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. I think the exterior was used in The Shining. Multnomah Falls was gorgeous. I’m combining memories of my two trips out there because I can’t recall exactly what I did on each trip. Sorry I don’t have any more specific memories other than a ton of bridges, and being told how to properly pronounce Willamette.

I’m under the impression that you were paid little to no money. How did that feel?

I got paid something, probably like $30. I was definitely bummed about it at the time because there was a decent size crowd watching my set. I should have at least made $60! I think I explained the situation as best as I could in my earlier email. But otherwise, it was a fun experience overall. I had a great time, and ultimately, that’s why I was there.

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The Torch Marauder as a Teen Idol

See the Torch Marauder documentary:

700 Phish Tapes

I knew Jed Binderman back on the east coast when he was a teenaged acting and filmmaking prodigy. I was once in a band that performed at one of his wild house parties. I took strange pride in injuring myself at the gig. Near the end of the performance our lead singer, late for a date, bolted. The band kept playing. When the music stopped I limped off with a swollen knee.

Jed’s grown up now, lives in Portland and plays drums in the band Eternal Tapestry. A blurb in the Portland Mercury writing about a show mentioned that Jed “stumbled upon a horde of 700 live Phish bootleg cassettes.” It also explained the tapes were used in the preparation of the bands latest recording Wild Strawberries. I had to know more about the find. Jed was willing to answer 3 questions from the Portland Orbit by email.

How and where and when and why did you find 700 Phish Tapes?

A friend of mine noticed a posting on craigslist saying that someone
had 300 Phish bootleg cassettes available for free. I’m not totally sure why said friend thought of me when he saw this, as I’m neither a Phish fan or THAT big of a hoarder, but he forwarded the posting to me, and before I knew it I was inside this dude’s house picking up box after box of Phish tapes. His estimation was 300, but when I finally brought them home I decided to waste the rest of my afternoon and actually count how many there were, since there was obviously more than 300 tapes. I finally counted over 700 tapes, all dubbed on Maxell-II hi-bias tapes, which are pretty expensive to acquire nowadays. At first I thought I could break them up into smaller lots and sell them on eBay, but then realized that Phish fans aren’t quite like deadheads, and they don’t pay big buxx for huge amounts of live Phish tapes. Eternal Tapestry had been throwing around the idea of renting a cabin for a week to do nothing but record music and hang out in a hot tub, and when we finally got our act together and booked the spot, I knew exactly what tapes we were going to be using, to be recorded on our cassette 8-track, for all of those days and nights.

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I know you guys are industrious in your recording methods, but did you or do you plan to record over all 700 tapes?

I think we recorded something like 50 tapes worth of music, maybe a
little less/more, but either way, it was a lot of stuff. Since then I’ve given huge stacks of tapes to other friends that use cassettes to record music, and I think the rest of them were actually given away at a yard sale at my old house, as some of them were “accidentally” left in the basement when I moved out.

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How can you record over September 14, 1999 “the snooze and you lose show?”—Do you expect any Phish fan backlash?

Unfortunately no backlash from any Phish fans who might feel that someone is really tarnishing the name of their true love, but hopefully one of these days I’ll get some hate mail that smells like patchouli.

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See more about Eternal Tapestry:

http://www.thrilljockey.com/thrill/Eternal-Tapestry/#.VWZeYmCQx0h

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